Economy grows at Australian wind farm

A wind turbine at the Ararat Wind Farm in Victoria, Australia. (Jack Ward / YJI)
ARARAT, Victoria, Australia – Soaring 135 meters above the ground, the 75 wind turbines with blades 50 meters long, the Ararat Wind Farm is not only one of the biggest developments locally, but it is the third largest wind farm on the continent.
Though part of the state of Victoria’s renewable energy plan, the wind farm was a job generator, too.  During the construction phase, 165 people worked there. Open since June, it now has 13 permanent staff.

The Ararat Wind Farm is just part of the Victoria’s official plan to have 25 percent of its energy renewable by 2020.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews speaking at the opening of the Ararat Wind Farm in June. (Jack Ward/YJI)

“It won’t be easy but we are certainly on track to meet our 2020 target,” said Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews.But not all of the wind farms energy will contribute to this target, with 40 percent of the power going to the nearby Australian Capital Territory.

Mick Gentleman, the Australian Capital Territory member for Brindabella said, “Of the 75 turbines, 27 turbines will generate about 271,000 megawatt hours per year, enough to power 37,000 Canberra homes.”
Victorians aren’t just getting energy out of this $450 million investment, said Ararat Mayor Paul Hooper.
Hooper said the project injected more than $40 million into the local economy. On top of this, annual payments of $75,000 will be paid into a community fund now that the wind farm has begun generating electricity.
Many community members attended the June 27 opening of the wind farm, including the land owners of the site where the wind farm was built and a large number of school students.
“I have a strong ambition for not only myself, but for our community as a whole to have a sustainable lifestyle,” said Gemma Hughes, who is in her final year at Ararat College, a secondary school. “The renewable energy revolution is happening faster than anyone could have predicted, and faster than most people can grasp.”
But it is unclear whether Victoria’s target for renewable energy use will remain intact after the state election next year.
Though some of the candidates seeking office have indicated plans to do so if election, Andrews – when asked about the probability – seemed to find it ridiculous.
“It just doesn’t make any sense to get rid of the renewable energy target, it doesn’t make any sense to have planning laws to stop wind farms like this being approved,” the premier said. “Ultimately that is an agenda that costs jobs, not just a few jobs, tens of thousands of jobs.”
While the current state political leaders are in place, more and more wind farms just like the one in Ararat will continue to be built, according to Andrews, with the Labour Party on track to meet their renewable energy target in 2020.
On the same day the Ararat Wind Farm opened, a new wind farm was announced for Stawell, located about 20 minutes down the road. Construction is set to begin later this year. 
Jack Ward is a Reporter at Youth Journalism International.
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